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Wrapping Wednesday: Micro Reviews for the Week of 2/17/16

By | February 22nd, 2016
Posted in Reviews | 2 Comments

There is a lot to cover on Wednesdays. We should know, as collectively, we read an insane amount of comics. Even with a large review staff, it’s hard to get to everything. With that in mind, we’re back with Wrapping Wednesday, where we look at some of the books we missed in what was another great week of comics.

Let’s get this party started.

Doctor Fate #9
Written by Paul Levitz
Illustrated by Sonny Liew
Reviewed by Brian Salvatore

We now know that “Doctor Fate” is not one of the books surviving into DC’s ‘Rebirth’ initiative. The book hasn’t been one of the breakout hits, either commercially or critically, of the ‘DC You’ branding, but that hasn’t stopped it from being an interesting title. This issue continues the book’s thematic style – a small, personal story, set against ancient gods in the largest city in the world.

The issue is as much about being a young idealist as it is about being a superhero, and the book really toes the line between Khalid’s actions being heroic or being problematic. I like that the creators are trying to give the readers a hero that isn’t like the others flying around the pages of DC – it gives the book a tone that isn’t replicated in many other places in comics right now. Dare I say that it gives off a little bit of a “Starman” vibe?

The big difference, however, is that James Robinson was a man of approximately Jack Knight’s age when he was writing him; Paul Levitz is old enough to be Khalid’s father, and a lot of the story is written in such a way that it sounds like what an older person would think/want a younger person to be like. Khalid would probably be far more impulsive and less restrained than he is here. Granted, he still ‘attacks’ police officers and breaks Akila out of police custody, but he does so while in his head discussing the consequences. That’s not the 22 year old manner exactly.

Sonny Liew continues to do amazing work on the book, giving it a look that is unique to DC’s line. His line work appears to be inspired some by webcomics, and he brings a bit of that indie, homemade vibe to the book. The important distinction is that he doesn’t feel forced doing it – it feels natural, which is something that the Big 2 sometimes struggle with. Often times, the work looks like it is trying to jump on a trend or look modern. Liew’s work doesn’t suffer form that – this looks like his true artistic vision.

Final Verdict: 7.1 – It is a shame this book won’t get a chance to blossom into something greater in another 10 or so issues. Hopefully, Khalid shows up in one of the ‘Rebirth’ team books.

From Under Mountains #5
Written by Claire Gibson and Marian Churchland
Illustrated by Sloane Leong
Reviewed by Michelle White

This fantasy series is keeping up a slow burn, exploring a shifting political (and supernatural) landcape as our main character, Elena, adjusts to her new sphere of influence in Karsgate Keep.

I’d comment further on the storyline but – and I hate to say this as a reviewer – I can’t follow it beyond broad strokes. I’d blame it on the string of headaches that’s made my week so fun, but there’s no question this is a dense story. That it’s told in vignettes, hopping from locale to locale, makes it even more challenging, because you don’t get to follow any particular thread for long.

What comes through despite the complexity, though, is a strong sense of moral ambiguity; of people subverting the roles they’ve been assigned in what seems to be a pretty rigid society. Each character seems to be internally divided, with Leong’s weathered faces getting across all kinds of doubt and indecision.

That said, the art fares better in long shot – where the backgrounds get to sprawl – than close up, where the draughtsmanship get rough, almost thumbnail-like. This vacillating between styles interrupts the flow of the story somewhat, which is a shame, because both ends of the spectrum are aesthetically appealing in their own way. The vibrancy of the colours is another plus, catching the eye at every turn.

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This is the kind of sink-or-swim fantasy series that demands immersion, and really, the kind of series that renders reviews de trop. After all, if you liked the ambitious worldbuilding of the first issue, that, alongside the abrupted charisma of the art, should be carrying you through. Otherwise, like this reviewer, you’ll find it hard going.

Final Verdict: 6.5 – A big world that’s being explored in fits and starts.

The Mighty Thor #4
Written by Jason Aaron
Illustrated by Russell Dauterman and Matt Wilson
Reviewed by Matthew Garcia

Thor has always been strongest when creators have abandoned the superhero trappings and fully embraced the fantasy elements. Jason Aaron’s run with the character has traversed across space and time, but never strayed from the usual sort of fantasy conventions. Even though a bunch of familiar elements like weddings between evil and benevolent creatures or colorful magic battles or populations rising up against tyrannical dictators all appear in “The Might Thor” #4, there’s something about it all that just works for this story. Maybe it’s the solid work with the characters and understanding of their characterizations. Maybe it’s his and Dauterman’s ability to generate tension. But it’s a strong example of how even the most familiar devices can still feel fresh and exciting.

This is a big, loud book, bursting with kinetic imagery. Dauterman straddles the line between these big epic gestures and goofy, practically tongue-in-cheek gags, and the playful approach makes the book all the more fun to read. He casts the women in dignified positions, with a constant, “Are you serious with this shit” look on their faces while Loki and Odin and Malekith fumble around like bozos from a silent comedy. It’s probably the most realistic part of the book, and honestly grounds the story to help us embrace the rest of the insanity.

Final Verdict: 8.0 – I’d actually rate this higher, but the high price tag and the poor quality of material Marvel insists on using is distracting and detrimental to the story itself.

Star Wars #16
Written by Jason Aaron
Illustrated by Leinil Yu
Reviewed by Jess Camacho

“Star Wars” #16 marks the start of a brand new storyline for the flagship series and yet again the separation between this series and “Darth Vader” doesn’t seem all that big. Dr. Aphra is now in the custody of the rebels, specifically Princess Leia and her people (and probably Vader) will come looking for her. “Star Wars” #16, like most first issues in a story arc, is concerned with setting things up. Jason Aaron is able to capture the same sense of humor that’s he had the whole series, specifically with the Han/Luke scenes but is able to balance that with the high stakes action that “Star Wars” needs. The dialogue between Leia and Sana is tense without going to far and Aaron’s Leia really is the natural born leader she should be.

However, Leinil Yu’s art does leave a little something to be desired. As far as the scope and backgrounds go, Yu is able to really hone in that bigness of the “Star Wars” universe very nicely. Ships, the facility that Dr. Aphra is held in are all finely detailed and add a nice sense of place to the book. The problem is really in some of the angles and the characters themselves. Some of the women’s faces in particular look the same if they aren’t a close up shot. Leia, Aphra and Sana in a couple panels look so similar and it’s a bit distracting. Sunny Gho’s colors are a little flat but have enough life to make the book still feel like a “Star Wars” book. All in all, nothing too flashy is happening here but it’s not criminal.

Final Verdict: 7.5 – A fine start, but I do miss the art of earlier issues.

“Tomb Raider” #1
Written by Mariko Tamaki
Illustrated by Philip Sevy
Reviewed by Stephenson Ardern-Sodje

Billed as ‘a perfect jumping-on point for new readers’, “Tomb Raider” #1 serves as both a starting point for a new, self-contained story and a continuation of the Croft canon from the end of the “Rise of the Tomb Raider” game.

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This issue, while not inherently flawed in any real way, feels a little too safe to make it anything to write home about. A young but experienced Lara finds herself propositioned by a mysterious guy to pursue a pseudo-mystical mushroom said to grant immortality. Initially reticent, the issue sees her curiosity piqued when a strange sequence of events point her in the direction of the only person in the world to have seen this rare macguffin since it was supposedly eaten in ancient China. There’s a distinctly by-the-numbers feeling to Tamaki’s script, and while a stuffy para-biology lecture, a cool fighting montage, and a spooky story about ancient Asian mystics all make sense within the world of Lara Croft, I found myself predicting plot points and story beats after the first few pages. Lara is a compelling lead, but she feels a little lacking in agency so far. Her decision-making for the first issue is largely reactionary, and the book leaps her from scene to scene without really giving her a chance to get settled and show the reader who she is.

It’s a bit of a shame, because Sevy’s art is pretty fun in places, especially when he gets a chance to get creative with the panelling. His Lara is instantly recognisable, and his dynamic opening few pages prove he can definitely draw a good tomb. the bulk of the book plays out setting the scene and establishing a pulpy, detective mystery vibe, so Sevy’s working with a lot of conversation-heavy pages, but he still manages to keep them largely interesting, mixing up his page layouts quite radically to ensure they’re engaging throughout. There are some purposefully disorientating circular inserts that represent Lara’s focussed senses, and it’ll be interesting to see how these play out as the book continues, but for now it remains to be seen if they’ll become integral or end up feeling gimmicky. Right now it could go either way.

Final Verdict: 5.1 – Video game adaptations are notoriously hard to crack, so perhaps Miss Croft needs a couple of issues to settle back into the swing of the medium.

Uncanny Inhumans #5
Written by Charles Soule
Illustrated by Brandon Peterson
Review by Ken Godberson III

After all the wibbly wobbly-ness of the last arc, “Uncanny Inhumans” decides to go a bit more low-key for it’s next arc, with this issue setting up something that made it’s way over from Battleworld, The Quiet Room. With Black Bolt banished from New Attilan, he has set up this club as a sort of neutral zone for the variety of superpowered groups as well as a base of operations to help Inhumans throughout the world. And the majority of this issue focuses on setting up a lot of world building for the Post-Global Terrigenesis Inhumans sprinkled with some character moments. There is also an expansion on the Skyspears that have been introduced Post-”Secret Wars” and the implications of these mysterious objects for the future. It’s all interesting things ripe with potential and the tension between Black Bolt, Medusa and Ahura is real good and shows how fractured the family has become, but that’s all we get.

Brandon Peterson and colorist Java Tartaglia take on art duties and I have mixed feelings. I do appreciate all the design work on everyone’s outfits for a night on the town. Black Bolt does rock a suit well and Medusa has a lovely purple outfit. Although, the positioning Medusa is drawn in sometimes isn’t exactly the greatest. Also, Ahura is confirmed as sixteen in this issue and, I don’t know if it’s just me, but Peterson seems to draw him older-looking than that.

Final Verdict: 6.8- A decent issue that is more focused on world building. There is definite potential in some of these ideas that will need time to blossom.

//TAGS | Wrapping Wednesday

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